note : updated 25 November 2011!
well, exceptionally flatteringly, a great many people have said that Michele (presumably mostly) and your humble narrator are doing a rather good job at bringing up William and James. some go even further, and suggest that i give some tips and advice on what to do when you have a new member of the family on the way!
this is all rather random and thus somewhat all over the place, but to please those who ask for it, here are a few things that, to sort of quote Rodders and The Faces, things that i know now that i wish i knew then. it's all intended purely as advice and experience - please take it or leave it, but kindly do not think i am in any way stating what anyone should or should not do. to that end, please take with a healthy sense of intention any advice you get that comes in the form of "should" and "do". it is probably well intentioned, but unless they have a medical qualification no one should try and enforce a way of bringing up a child.
further, please note that as i speak from experience only it's inevitable that i am going to mention certain brands or products. i am not endorsed nor financed by anyone at all (no one has taken advantage of my donate button, by the way, not that i expected them to) so anyone who scores a good mention here does so purely because they have a product which pleased us.
here you go then, use it, don't use it, up to you!
Newborn does what it says on the box – do not go ballistic buying hundreds of newborn baby vests and, in particular, nappies. Your new arrival shall grow at quite a comparatively rapid rate for the first couple of weeks. Buy two big packets of newborn baby nappies to start with – if baby doesn’t outgrow them by the time of getting to the end of the last row in the second packet you have plenty of time to get more!
Which nappies – honestly, we found that Huggies just leaked too much. Pampers in our experience are the winners. That said, we are all different in our physical traits – try a small packet of one particular brand, and if you find that it’s either a bit too leaky or looks uncomfortable on baby, simply switch and try another brand. The fault is with the nappy, not your child!
the cost of nappies fluctuates wildly! Here it really, really pays to shop around either monthly or however frequently you enter the retail world. Scour any and all leaflets and pamphlets looking for specials and shop accordingly; it seems that all the stores tend to rotate who has a special on what.
Wet Wipes / Baby Wipes – you cannot have too many of these! Nappies are very messy, have loads on hand. Again, we find that Pampers are the best. There are cheaper brands, but we found that when we tried them you go to take one out you end up with 3 or 4 coming through. This same advice applies for nappy bags!
the above certainly applies too to baby bum cream / creme. the more the better, really, and the best we found to help with the inevitable nappy rashes was ones that contained calendula cream.
Thermometer – For the first couple of years the only way Baby is going to be able to communicate with you if he is ill or not is via his temperature. Do not mess about with this. A bit pricey, but our research led us to the Braun Thermoscan – accurate, reliable, unobtrusive when it takes temp in ear and easy enough to find the replacement covers for. The ones which never make contact with your child are tempting for parents who think they are being sensitive, but they’re just too unreliable. Likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, the “bottom thermometer” isn’t likely to appeal to you so your child isn’t going to be thrilled with it.
Vests – these are the winner! The “body” ones that clip at the bottom? Get a few newborn, more 0 – 3 month size though. Prices rarely vary for these, just get them as and when you see them. They’re perfect for keeping nappies in place and making sure baby is comfortable!
They are made of rather flexible, stretchy material, and as with all things don’t be fooled by the age listed on the vests – don’t change, for instance, to 3 – 6 month size just because your baby has turned three. A word to the wise – not all babies abandon nappies on their 2nd birthday as vest makers seem to think, for 24 – 36 month vests are rare to find. If you see them, buy them!
Clothes – the same logic that applies to vests and nappies comes in here, really. It is very easy to go overboard with buying clothes for babies (they do look so incredibly cute, after all), and to be honest this is no bad thing. A general guide, and this is as broad as it can be, would be that for the first year baby shall be happy in one outfit for the day, but as soon as we are crawling and walking it might be wise to have a spare set (or two) on hand.
Bottles & Sterilizers – even if you are going to “feed naturally” you will need bottles to store the more natural milk, or will need them if you go formula anyway. Different babies like different ones. Nuk, that came as the highest recommended ones. The “liquid sterilizer” is rather good, where you store the bottles in a bucket with the (usually pink) sterilizing liquid in, but this is the 21st Century – we have experienced no problems at all with using a microwave oven sterilizer for some six years now. Related to this, there are all sorts of contraptions you can get to store & wash bottles and all the bits in a dishwasher – if you have such a machine, get the bits to wash the bits with!
Monitors and batteries – if you live in a land, like I do, where power cuts are a regular thing, then getting baby listening monitors that run off batteries as well as the mains is essential. The video monitors are getting better priced and rather freely available, but in all honesty the audio only monitors do such a good job of detecting the smallest of sounds you are fine with these.
Eating / Drinking Habits – I am no expert here and I am not qualified to speak authoritatively. On our experience, though, don’t get too hung up on the recommended daily amounts your child ‘should’ be taking in. We found with both our babies that their eating and drinking fluctuated wildly, some days a touch under the advised levels some days a bit over. If in any doubt at all about eating and drinking, however, this is what your doctor is qualified for – call for advice! And on that note
Sleeping Habits - trust me, this is as disjointed as you have heard! for the first few months baby sleeps a lot, but wakes up at less than conventional times, day and night. be ready!
if, and this is quite presumptious in the 21st Century i suppose, there are two parents on hand, it really does pay to do shifts and take turns with night duty. there is, hopefully, a temptation for both parents to do everything all the time, in particular with sleep and feeding. don't do it, you'll burn out in a week. random sleeping patterns are fun, as it happens. with James, Michele and i watched the film Ripley's Game entirely out of sequence and it separate parts across about 10 days due to the odd times late at night / early in the morning they repeated it. i have, ever since, found it rather difficult to watch a film all at once and in the sequence the director imagined i would.
Flask, Bottles and Power Holders - if you do not have one, get one! baby frequently shall feel like a bottle at 2, or even perhaps 3, in the morning. be ready for it. we had a flask full of hot water, two bottles filled with previously boiled water, a tankard (to put the water from the flask in and stand the bottle in) and the amount of formula required measured out in the powder holders. it really, really, really beats going in to the kitchen to do it whilst half asleep.
Facts and figures – from Day One for each child Michele kept a daily spreadsheet, noting the times baby drank (and eventually ate), slept, nappy changes and all that good stuff. It is brilliant for keeping an eye on developing trends and can warn you if there’s a problem. Buy a book to do this in, or print out excel spreadsheets! despite my opening comments against this kind of statement, this last piece of advice is one i would insist all new parents do.
And finally, remember this - as wonderful as our 21st Century gadgets are and as much as they help with parenting, you have to always bear in mind that, somehow, us humans have been having children for many thousands of years. and we've done it without things like electricity, "clean" water, disposable nappies and so on. a natural proclivity to nurture, protect, love and cherish has kind of got us humans this far - embrace and use the technology, listed here and beyond, but don't ever become reliant on it or think you need it to be a successful parent.
well, there you go! if this has been of some use to you, excellent! best of luck!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!